Following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test earlier this week, the state-run media has, for the first time, published claims that Pyongyang intends to utilize its nuclear capability in an asymmetric manner: As space-based electromagnetic pulse weapons.

The official communist party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published a report Monday on “the EMP might of nuclear weapons,” detailing an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would be accomplished by detonating a nuclear warhead in space.

“In general, the strong electromagnetic pulse generated from nuclear bomb explosions between 30 kilometers and 100 kilometers [18.6 miles and 62 miles] above the ground can severely impair electronic devices, electric machines, and electromagnetic grids, or destroy electric cables and safety devices,” said the article authored by Kim Songwon, dean of Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang.

“The discovery of the electromagnetic pulse as a source of high yield in the high-altitude nuclear explosion test process has given it recognition as an important strike method,” he wrote.

“In explosions occurring at such altitudes, large amounts of electrons are released as a result of ionization reactions of high-energy instant gamma rays and other radioactive rays,” he said. “These electrons form a strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP) through interaction with the geomagnetic field.”

“The detonation would create a strong electric field of 100,000 volts per meter when it approaches the ground and “that is how it destroys communications facilities and electricity grids,” the report said.

Source: Washington Free Beacon

Why it’s on our radar: Not everyone is convinced that a) an EMP weapon can even be created; and b) that it could successfully knock out the U.S. power grid. What’s more, this could be nothing but propaganda, since all media in North Korea is controlled by the state.

The news site reporting this also noted that arms control advocate Jeffrey Lewis recently laughed off a question by a reporter regarding the viability of EMP weapons, saying, “This is the favorite nightmare scenario of a small group of very dedicated people.”

Others disagree, including former CIA Director James Woolsey, as well as the Government Accountability Office, which published an analysis in May 2016 claiming the U.S. remained unprepared for an EMP attack, noting the country still had not implemented all of the recommendations the agency made eight years earlier. What’s more, power industry experts believe the threat is real. 

What it boils down to is this: North Korea would have to have a nuclear weapon capable of producing hundreds of kilotons or even megatons of explosive power and the ICBM to deliver that payload to a precise location over the earth. North Korea may not yet have that capability, but the country is certainly moving in the right direction. [source]